It is a well documented fact that if you give a million monkeys a million typewriters, they will eventually produce the entire works of Shakespeare. But what if you give just one video camera to a group of 11 chimpanzees? Well I for one believe they could knock out at least a couple of episodes of Hollyoaks, maybe even an omnibus.
Now the BBC has endeavoured to answer that very question in the name of science.
As part of a study into how the world is perceived by man’s closest cousin, Betsy Herrelko, a leading primatologist, spent 18 months helping produce the first film shot entirely by chimpanzees.
Taking time off from more traditional monkey past-times such as cigar-smoking, roller-skating and very public acts of self-gratification, the chimps were first taught how to use a touch screen monitor to select a variety of images.
Initially the chimps were more interested in arguing amongst themselves, but they were soon captivated by the gift of a monkey proof ‘chimpcam’.
The experiment took place in a special enclosure in Edinburgh Zoo. Three areas of outside space were provided for the chimpanzees to film, as well as several small rooms in which the primates could be viewed more closely by researchers.
The chimps gradually learnt how to select an image and watch footage from a variety of options. Research, however, showed that they were often equally non-plussed by the provided views of the food preparation room or of the outside enclosure. Had the chimps been forced to watch cable television channel ‘Babestation’ instead the results may have proved slightly different.
The chimps, who had never been involved in scientific studies before, gave further insight into how they can interact with objects and use them as tools.
The documentary, which can only be described, amidst highly publicised budget cuts, as a thinly veiled threat to the Beeb’s production staff, will air on BBC2 at 8pm on Wednesday 27th January.